Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Blame the Booze?

Approached again by a TV programme researcher about the link between alcohol and 'aggression'. Although there is currently (and periodically) much concern about 'binge culture' and its costs of society (and, especially, the NHS), I still don't think there is a simple link (with alcohol converting choir boys and girls into homicidal maniacs). 'Aggression' is a label applied to some very diverse judged to be 'inappropriate' activities, sometimes linked to defence rather than competition. I certainly think that alcohol (a very diversely-acting broadly sedative drug) impairs the 'finer' functioning of the nervous system. This can result in people sending out inappropriate signals and even misinterpreting the messages given out by others. This is all the more likely when you have many impaired folk operating in close proximity in and around crowded bars (concentrating such locations into a few streets doesn't seem an optimal arrangement). There is ample scope for escalation. In terms of assessing the costs to society, one should not limit the calculation to paying for liver transplants or injuries resulting from 'disorganised' attack (actually drunk people are more prone to being attacked rather than being attackers). One might well add to the costs, policing, courts, a percentage of prison occupancy, counselling for the children and partners of alcoholics, loss of earnings etc etc. I think I need a drink!

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